MOTORING in the 1930s – Footnote

Ron reflects on the enormous changes made to the UK road network over the past 30 years

In recent issues I wrote about the obstacles facing motorists in the 1930s. I referred to the way in which major routes would go through the centres of towns and villages where the roads were narrow and obstructed by parked vehicles. As a relative newcomer to the area I am not familiar with the way local roads used to be, but I was looking at an old OS map of mine that dated back to the mid 70s and was quite surprised to see how many roads were going through town centres even then. Those who have lived in the area for many years will remember how, even as recently as the 70s, main roads were so different. In particular I was surprised to see that at that time the A10 went through the centre of Ely, the centre of Littleport, through Southery, Hilgay, Fordham, where it did a sharp right turn, through Denver, where it took another sharp right turn, through Downham Market and through Stow Bardolph. Further back in the past the A10 went through Downham High Street. Who can remember that? Going south, it went through Cambridge, I well remember what that was like, through Melbourn and Royston. It still goes through Royston but at one time it used to go straight down Royston High Street which was hardly wide enough for two cars to pass each other. Further south still it went through Buntingford, Hertford and Ware. I remember, in the 50s and 60s, and perhaps more recently, that, further south than Ware, the A10 was one long miserable trail of nose to tail traffic.

My 70s map also shows the A47 going through the middle of Wisbech and, of course, the A134 going through Stoke Ferry and Wereham with sugar beet lorries coming through the villages. Going in the opposite direction on the A47 it used to go through Swaffham and East Dereham and many other villages no doubt. I remember the A11 going through the centre of Newmarket up until what seems like quite recent times.

Quite a lot has changed in thirty years

Ron Watts

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